Child size recliners have become a very popular gift over the past few years. I currently have over 500 of these recliners in over 2-dozen styles ready for the holiday season. But how do these great chairs come into being?
I recently took a trip to visit several manufacturers of kid recliners. These manufacturers come in varying sizes, from shops with only a handful of employees to full blown factories with hundreds of workers. Surprisingly, the child recliners were all made in a similar fashion, regardless of the size of the manufacturer.
Let’s start from the beginning. At some point each of these manufacturers decided to build child recliners. They all have someone, usually the owner in smaller shops, who creates patterns for anything they’re going to create. This person probably took an adult recliner, ripped it apart and created miniature patterns for the child recliner. Two sets of patterns are created, one for the material and another for the wooden frame.
The material is then cut to the pattern. Imagine metal tables laid out end to end for 50 feet. Fabric is rolled out across these tables. Because time is money, the fabric is laid out 10 to 20 layers thick and cut to the pattern all at once. The pattern is laid out on top of the fabric and marked with chalk. To make the cut, an electric or air driven knife is used that resembles the electric knife you would use to cut up a turkey on Thanksgiving.
Once the fabric is cut, it goes to the sewing station. The factories I visited all had row upon row of sewing stations set up. The smallest shop had 10 stations while the largest had closer to 100. The pre-cut fabric is sewn together leaving various holes so that the fabric can be put onto the chair and the padding can be inserted.
While the fabric is being prepared, another set of craftsmen are creating the frames. Depending on the chair, they are cutting either hard wood or plywood based on the previously created patterns. They use table saws, band saws and various other saws to shape the wood. Everything is done using stop blocks created long ago to speed the process. Once the wood is cut to pattern, it is combined with a pre-purchased lift mechanism using several techniques depending on the quality and cost of the chair. Staple gun, gang nail, air gun and screws are all used to hold the frame together.
At this point the frame and fabric are combined. The fabric is stretched over the frame and tacked or stapled into place. Usually a combination of tacking and stapling is used. Tacking can create some nice effects in visible areas, while stapling is the standard and used anywhere people won’t see.
Once the fabric is attached to the chair, the chair is stuffed with fiber foam. The foam is blown in using a special machine. You can view something very similar at any Build-A-Bear™ workshop.
Some final stitching is done to close up the hole where the stuffing entered and voila, a fantastic child recliner is born. It is then wrapped in a plastic bag and put in a specially sized both, ready for delivery.